Sunday, September 21, 2014

ostracism and being the scapegoat in the alcoholic family

name of art: "Scapegoat Healing"
(meant as healing art for scapegoat victims)
© Lise Winne
for sale as a fine art archival print HERE

note: a much more thorough post about scapegoating in both alcoholic and narcissistic families is on my main blog HERE
What scapegoating sounds like is on the Walking on Eggshells post HERE (towards the end of the post #3).

My experiences in various Alanon and ACOA meetings is that they are full of scapegoats and ostracized family members. In one I went to, between a third and a half of the attendees either had no relationship with their family members or barely any contact with family members (aka very strained, superficial relationships). 

It was shocking for me to learn this! And also upsetting and baffling.

In most of the Alanon meetings I have attended, the people in them are gentle, quiet, reasonable, responsible, respectful souls. The attendees that show up every week for years and years are community leaders, teachers, therapists, yoga instructors and nurses with altruistic motives, people who have worked very hard on themselves to do the right thing, to go way out of their way to help others without expecting anything in return. In short, they seem like the most empathetic members of society. When I think of the people in these groups, I think of the doting nurses in hospitals who allay your fears, and make sure you are comfortable as you transition through a scary and emotional time. Some even seem downright saintly. And these are the hated black sheep of their families? I was aghast! How did it end up this way?

Scapegoating (in terms of the family) means being bullied by the entire family. The family picks on one of its members, blames that person for everything that goes wrong in the family, desperately goes on fault finding missions to explain away abuse, and (mis)interprets the victims feelings in an ugly way to further convict and bully (more explanation coming soon).

So, as it turns out, the most bullied members of society are in the helping professions: nurses and school teachers as evidenced by this NPR broadcast here.

The scapegoating of these kinds of members of society actually makes sense when you research why. Alcohol destroys the part of the brain that is in control of empathy (NBC article here). The disorder associated with a lack of empathy is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (the other Cluster B disorders may be evident as well -- alcoholism mimicing these disorders has been well documented in psychiatric literature). Borderlines, Narcissists and the Anti Personality Disordered (all Cluster B) constantly indulge in situations where all blame for life events and relationships that go wrong are heaped onto someone outside of himself, usually a scapegoat. For the sake of convenience, I will use the term "narcissist" to refer to the Cluster B personality disorders.

The documentation for narcissists who pick a child to be his or her favorite (usually labeled a golden child who can do no wrong), and another child to be a scapegoat (who is the least favored and can do no right) is well established in psychiatric literature also. The golden child is someone who is chosen by the narcissist from the group of family members, someone who has similar values and traits to the narcissist parent (so naturally this favored child would resemble the narcissist the most: i.e. a child who most exhibits a lack of empathy, feels entitled and has abusive tendencies ... and with further nurturing of these qualities, the narcissist parent, in effect, creates another narcissist who bullies his other siblings). The Scapegoat role is assigned to the child who has the least amount of traits of the narcissistic parent (usually a sensitive empath). Since alcoholic brain damage mimics narcissism, the narcissist chooses a scapegoat in the family who is the most sensitive and empathetic and heaps all blame for what has gone wrong on this member (while convincing other family members who share similar bullying characteristics to help in ganging up on the scapegoat). And who are the most empathetic members of society? Nurses, school teachers, yoga instructors, home health aides and the like. 

As this Psych Central article by Erika Krull, MSED, LMHP states, it is also the act of setting up boundaries and telling the truth which leads to a situation where one becomes the scapegoat:

Going against the grain in an alcoholic family could make someone a hot target. If one person tries to speak the truth about an alcoholic and put up boundaries, that person quickly can become the black sheep. Family members often will air out the truth-teller’s dirty laundry; whatever positive standing they might have within the family could be knocked down. Rumors and negativity may even spread beyond the family group. If that’s the price for helping an alcoholic family member, why would anyone do it? It takes courage to stand up to an entire family, and many people aren't sure they have it.

And indeed, the scapegoat is usually the truth-teller, the family member who is the healthiest emotionally, the member who wants a more functional relationship based on honesty rather than denials, lies and sycophantic behaviors, the one who can no longer accept abuse and speaks out about it, the one who feels empathy for other abused members, is the one who is unconsciously chosen to be the scapegoat by the other family members.

In this blog post by licensed therapist, Kellen (from Kellevision), a family drops off their problem child at the therapist's office to be fixed. It turns out the child is the family scapegoat and is acting out. The acting out is actually deemed to be a normal response to the domestic violence, physical abuse, blaming and shaming going on in the family. So in order to fix the child, the whole family needs to be in counseling:

The entire family ostracizes her because of her "anger problems". Her only problem is that she is clearly carrying the anger for all the other children at the situations and conditions of violence and chaos they have experienced. Like a typical scapegoat she is the truth teller, complaining vociferously about her mother's boyfriends and the problems they create for her and her siblings. She confronts Mom. She says what the other children stay quiet about. This allows the other children to sit and smile and look like angels by comparison. She grabs her sword and shield and does battle against the things that are wrong in her family. She openly defies her mother and the two of them are locked in a power struggle ...

Everyone has their role. But you can't see this unless you have the entire family in the room together interacting with and reacting to each other.

If this family can be educated about the parts everyone is playing and change those roles there is hope that the "problem child" won't have to keep acting out the dysfunction of the system. ... Fixing the dysfunction of the system fixes the "behavior problems" of the child.

A lot of parents are extremely resistant and sensitive to being labeled as the problem by a clinician. Some will absolutely refuse to participate in the process at all and refuse to consider any suggestion that anyone but the child has a problem ...

If I can create a safe environment with strong boundaries and clear rules which limit blaming that is the ideal. I also work very hard to explain the concept of family systems theory and be very balanced in my listening and feedback.
 -- Kellen

Kellen also has a post about what the scapegoat role is really about here.

In this article from Sober Recovery by Lynne Namka, Ed.D, scapegoating goes beyond the family and becomes a societal ill: 

Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem with one member of the family or a social group being blamed for small things, picked on and constantly put down. In scapegoating, one of the authority figures has made a decision that somebody in the family has to be the bad guy. The mother or father makes one child bad and then looks for things (sometimes real, but most often imagined) that are wrong ...

It seems as if we humans as a species seem to need someone to vent our anger on and make wrong. Scapegoating is a projection defense. It is the ego saying "If I can put the blame on you, I don't have to recognize and take responsibility for the negative qualities in myself. What I can't stand about myself, I really hate in you and have to attack you for it in order to deny that I have the same quality." 

Scapegoating is a huge social problem contributing to the hate that exists in the world. There is scapegoating of whole groups of people happening when there is prejudice or stereotyping. Unfortunately, in a larger sense, some Jewish people or other ethnic groups and minorities have been scapegoated by the less conscious members of their own culture.

Elaine Dove, a scapegoat-turned-therapist recognized that her role was the typical result of what happens "in families affected by alcoholism and/or narcissistic parenting..." She realized her role was the result of a mother who would deny anything bad about herself and a family who not only went along with it, but who was unwilling to own their contributions to the abuse and dysfunction. In order to keep the round of denials and abusive behaviors going without a hitch, they needed the scapegoat child to be the dumping ground. She got sick of being the scapegoat, took herself out of the family, disappeared, and when she went back temporarily for a family function, noticed that in her absence, a new scapegoat had taken her place (there can't be a chasm in this system if denial is going to work). She realized then that her family needed her more than she needed them, in order to keep the denials going. It was her way of healing from the traumatic experiences of being the scapegoat.

She is not the only one. In fact, there have been a lot of articles written about replacement scapegoats.

And like Elaine, scapegoats do, in fact, leave their families ... often, and sometimes forever. ACOA, Alanon and Co-dependents Anonymous are full of people who were or are their family's scapegoats. Once the scapegoat leaves their family, the other family member that is chosen to fill the role/void is, in fact, next up in line in terms of sensitivity. In this article by licensed therapist, Kellen, an intellectual family chooses an "emotional child" to fill the void:

The official Scapegoat has resigned from his position and refused to play the part any longer. So the family is desperately (though unconsciously) seeking someone else to fill the position. It seems to be moving toward the younger sister. This family values intellect and the younger sister is rather emotional. She has been labeled a "drama queen" by the family (notice the negative labeling which precedes the scapegoating).

There's just one problem. Though she may be a drama queen (and she can be a bit), she actually has a very serious and very real situation going on right now. A situation which would typically require the family to band together to support her. But it appears that the family is using the "drama queen" designation to deny the validity of her problem and, in doing so, eliminate their responsibility to support her. This tactic also denounces her emotional reaction to the problem as merely being "drama". By defining painful emotions as "drama" other family members can avoid feeling them. They avoid having to listen to her experiences and her pain. And they put her down for experiencing them. 
-- Kellen

In this article on living with addiction, Tian Dayton, MA, PhD, TEP says of the dysfunctional family:

... family members seamlessly slip into patterns of relating that become increasingly more dysfunctional. The children are often left to fend for themselves and anyone bold enough to confront the obvious disease may be branded as a family traitor ...

... Alcoholic families may become characterized by a kind of emotional and psychological constriction, where family members do not feel free to express their authentic selves for fear of triggering disaster; their genuine feelings are often hidden under strategies for keeping safe, like pleasing or withdrawing. The family becomes organized around trying to manage the unmanageable disease of addiction. They may yell, withdraw, cajole, harangue, criticize, understand, get fed up; you name it. They become remarkably inventive in trying everything they can come up with to contain the problem and keep the family from blowing up. The alarm bells in this system are constantly on a low hum, causing everyone to feel hyper vigilant, ready to run for emotional (or physical) shelter or to erect their defenses at the first sign of trouble ...

... Without a rigorous program of treatment and recovery for all concerned, the dysfunctional personality styles and relationships developed in the addicted family environment will tend to recreate themselves over and over again. Sobriety needs to happen on all levels and in all family members, emotionally, psychologically and physically ...

Emotional, physical and psychological abuse is unfortunately all too often present in families that contain addiction and trauma. Abuse is part of the impulsivity that characterizes families where feelings are acted out rather than talked out. The other side of abuse is victimization...

In this blog, the scapegoat decides to stop speaking the truth or getting involved in family disputes, and decides that if the truth isn't being spoken by her, then other family members might come forward and speak the truth. In other words, the scapegoat is a kind of shield or champion for the oppressive situation where one member does all of the work of confronting and trying to make the family better and whole again, but also takes all of the blame and branded as a troublemaker by most of the other members. The blogger suggests it might be helpful to other people who have been saddled with the scapegoat role to remove themselves and be silent. However, make sure you read the comments below the blog. In situations of abuse, violence and bullying, this may simply be impossible. In my own experience in witnessing scapegoats in Alanon and ACOA, the abuse is too severe, plus the scapegoat role stays with the individual forever, whether they are silent or not, whether they are in the family or not (ostracism simply replaces the role, someone else may take on the role in the absence of scapegoat #1, but as soon as the scapegoat #1 returns to the family again, the role returns, sometimes with a vengeance).

So much of the advice in Alanon and ACOA is to work on redefining yourself as a child of God (or what ever your higher power is), not as the emotionally beat up and blamed victim of your family. You are encouraged to be more than your sick family's definitions, not to take their barbs, insults and blaming tactics into your heart and mind and let it hurt you and fester there, and to move beyond your family's definition by reaching out to others who are healthier and appreciate you more. In a way, these groups are like fellowships where life-long friends and substitute family can be found. Staying in situations where you are bullied, degraded, abused, silenced about your pain, kept from your dreams and where there is a lot of hypocrisy, double standards and lying is not acceptable (which can all be part of the alcoholic family system: more information here and here and here).

Many ACOA and Alanon attendees wear their black sheep status with pride inside the walls of these groups. Some have lost their entire families and gone through incredible grief, thoughts about suicide at one time, wondered what they were living for, wondered what they were going to do without a family. But in the end, after many years, they wondered why they put up with so much deep pain for so long. The scapegoat role is a very, very painful role. It looks and sounds like bigotry and can even border on sounding like slavery. Who needs to be approved by bullies, scapegoaters, hypocrites, control freaks, liars and people who punish you when you speak the truth? Even if they are people you have known for a good portion of your life? You simply may have outgrown your need to be in situations where you are nothing more to these members of your family than what they want from you, or how they perceive you (which may always be negative and degrading, or at best, about weakening your autonomy and rights within the relationship in some way, including having your thoughts and feelings heard).

In my own life:

I look to an uncle to keep me on track when it comes to bullying situations. He had a supportive wife and a completely comfortable life where he could have been very self-indulgent. He risked it all in the first band of Freedom Riders, the ones who saw and experienced the most violence and terror. He continued with many other protests, including The Golden RuleHe was staunchly against an addicted, inebriated society in general, and felt that alcohol was not only poison, but could change morals and honor for the worse. Events at his house were always without alcohol. I doubt that he would have submitted to domination, docility and being a willing scapegoat or sycophant just to be part of a relationship where he wasn't respected. I often put him and his example in my mind (he and I were close).

And I also look to my father. He told me many, many times that he didn't want me to be docile for anyone, that he felt I had a greater purpose and a better spirit than to submit to domination, strong-arming, silencing and manipulations. Although he said it to me many, many times throughout my life, it was as though, on his deathbed, he handed me those instructions in spades.

If you want a better world, with integrity and honor in it, you have to live it first, and look to people who have it, and surround yourself with more people who have it. As Billy Graham said: "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened."

A visual work I thought of that depicts walking away from people who scapegoat is the Eight of Cups in the Tarot. It depicts someone in pursuit of better ideals, who willingly leaves behind comfort to face a difficult terrain or road (and in a reading, that is exactly what is portended). According to the Biddy Tarot:

The Eight of Cups is a card of change and transition. The card evokes an immediate reaction of sadness and a sense of solitude. The young man in this card has turned his back on all he has accumulated or accomplished before. He disappears by night into a barren and difficult terrain with only a cloak on his back and a staff in hand ... This individual has chosen to forsake the familiar and the comfortable in the pursuit of higher goals.

Perhaps that is the path that most scapegoats come to take eventually. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

the silent treatment

name of illustration: The Scream Over the Silent Treatment
after the 1893 painting The Scream by Edvard Munch
medium: inks and colored pencil on Arches watercolor paper
image is ©2014 Lise Winne with proper attributes to Edvard Munch
(for questions regarding any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att)

(note: more of this topic is covered in this blog post, The Silent Treatment is Abuse!) 

I found this by a reader from the Silent Treatment Blog:

It occurs in small ways and begins in all the little things that you stop saying to each other. Then the resentment starts. The quarrels, the arguments, the snippy conversations, the single word answer to every question that is asked. And growing use of the word ‘Fine’. -- Kate

From one of my favorite bloggers on dysfunctional relationships, Thomas G. Fiffer (who writes many articles for The Good Men Project), here are some snippets from this article on the silent pain of emotional withholding (which can also be interpreted as "the silent treatment"). In the article he is responding to a reader who talks about a dysfunctional relationship that is the passive-death non-relationship in which every dissatisfaction you express is completely ignored or casually dismissed. Not with a bang but a whimper……….

Here are some of his responses (again, if you are interested in the full article, it is here):

If you've lived with a dysfunctional partner, chances are you've experienced it. Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect. Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we've done something wrong or failed or worse, that there's something wrong with us ... You're desperately lonely, even though the person who could comfort you by sharing even one kind word is right there ... When you speak, you might as well be talking to the wall, because you’re not going to get an answer, except maybe, if you’re lucky, a dismissive shrug. And the more you talk about anything that matters to you, the more you try to assert that you matter, the more likely your withholding partner is to belittle or ignore what you’re saying and leave you in the cold ... You ask yourself, am I here? Do I mean anything to this person? Do I matter? Do I even exist? ... Your accomplishments go unrecognized, your contributions unmentioned, your presence at best grudgingly acknowledged, and any effort at bridging the chasm is spurned ... Emotional withholding is typically a response to your trying to stand up for yourself, to an assertion of your rights within the relationship. And perhaps the deepest pain of all comes from your partner’s insistence that you deserve to be treated this way, deserve to be punished, and, to paraphrase my older post, your partner’s absurd argument that if you just give up your silly notion of having a healthy, communicative relationship between two equal partners and resubmit to emotional domination and abuse, the caring, compassion, communication, and connection, the warmth and the love, will return ... And they might—for five minutes, five hours, even five days—until you assert your yourself again." --- Thomas G. Fiffer

The point is that even if you capitulate and give in, it is likely to happen all over again when you need to assert yourself again. And it is very, very likely that you will have to assert yourself again over another issue! Imagine all of the ways in which you will not be able to compromise. Some of these might include (or think of your own): you might be expected to apologize to an abusive sibling through the pressure of a parent, you might be expected to allow an abusive in-law who has molested your daughter back into your life by a spouse, you might be expected to go on a dangerous trip in a war-torn country where there is heavy artillery with your newborn baby by an abusive boss, you might be expected to drive through a blizzard when no one else is out on the roads except snowplows, anything... If the relationship has a pattern where you have bended under pressure to concede or grovel for love lest you take the consequences of being dismissed or abused, you'll be expected to knuckle under again and again, no matter what is at stake to you, your life, your health, your sanity ... "What you allow is what will continue."

As Thomas G. Fiffer says in the closing of his article:

The truth is, caring, compassion, communication, connection, warmth, and love should NEVER be conditional and NEVER be willfully withheld, EVER, unless the relationship is already over and you need to draw a boundary to establish your new life and preserve your own sanity. Withholding these within a relationship is abuse, a kind of emotional blackmail, no different from the other kind that threatens to hurt you where you’re most vulnerable if you don’t comply with your partner’s desires or needs. But the harder you work towards creating a healthy relationship, the more your dysfunctional partner will withhold the very things on which the health of the relationship depends. This is how your relationship becomes “the passive-death non-relationship” ... sunk under the weight of scorn and silence instead of buoyed by the lift of love.

If you have a narcissist in your life, they use the silent treatment as a way to manipulate and control you (the victim) as this article by Alexander Burgemeester will attest to:

When a narcissist uses the silent treatment with someone, they take it to the extreme. A narcissist may refuse to speak to or even acknowledge someone for great lengths of time- and then demand an apology that is out of proportion to the perceived offense. By demanding this apology, it supports the narcissist’s inflated view of himself or herself. The silent treatment is a common form of abuse used by people who cannot tolerate being on the receiving end of someone else’s self-assertiveness ... When the victim does something that displeases the narcissist, they cease to exist for a certain period of time-most often extensive and disproportionate amounts of time. -- Alexander Burgemeester

Many psychology journals refer to "the silent Treatment" as silent bullying.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Is it abuse or brain damage when pathological lying comes from alcoholics?

name of illustration: Brain (D)effects
medium: inks and watercolor on Arches watercolor paper
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images, purchasing the original art or a print of the art 
contact LilacGroveGraphics (att)

If you were wondering, pathological lying is abuse

Alcohol can damage the hippocampus of the brain, making it hard to decipher whether an alcoholic is lying or has brain damage. An article I found on the subject is HERE.

You can also see the disturbing pictures of brain damage from alcohol HERE.

Do you wonder if you are in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic (even if the abuse isn't physical)? Take the quiz HERE (mainly for partners of alcoholics, but you can modify your answers if you are in other kinds of relationships). 

But the disease of alcoholism (without brain damage) can also turn a person into a pathological liar. Here are some snippets from an article by Floyd P. Garrett, M.D.:

The first casualty of addiction, like that of war, is the truth. At first the addict merely denies the truth to himself. But as the addiction, like a malignant tumor, slowly and progressively expands and invades more and more of the healthy tissue of his life and mind and world, the addict begins to deny the truth to others as well as to himself. He becomes a practiced and profligate liar in all matters related to the defense and preservation of his addiction, even though prior to the onset of his addictive illness, and often still in areas as yet untouched by the addiction, he may be scrupulously honest.
First the addict lies to himself about his addiction, then he begins to lie to others. Lying, evasion, deception, manipulation, spinning and other techniques for avoiding or distorting the truth are necessary parts of the addictive process.
... In order for the addiction to continue it requires an increasingly idiosyncratic private reality subject to the needs of the addictive process and indifferent or even actively hostile to the healthy needs of the addict and those around him.
... in the more serious or advanced cases all such human counter-attacks upon the addiction, even, indeed especially when they come from those closest and dearest to the addict, fall upon deaf ears and a hardened heart. The addict's obsession-driven, monomaniacal private reality prevents him from being able to hear and assimilate anything that would if acknowledged pose a threat to the continuance of his addiction...
... At this stage of addiction the addict is in fact functionally insane. It is usually quite impossible, even sometimes harmful to attempt to talk him out of his delusions regarding his addiction. This situation is similar to that encountered in other psychotic illnesses, schizophrenia for example, in which the individual is convinced of the truth of things that are manifestly untrue to everyone else.
... In many cases the addict responds to negative feedback from others about his addiction by following the maxim of "Attack the attacker." Those who confront or complain about the addict's irrational and unhealthy behaviors are criticized, analyzed and dismissed by the addict as untrustworthy or biased observers and false messengers. -- Floyd P. Garrett, M.D., Psychiatrist

Perhaps this is why addiction often mimics psychological disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia

Here is an excerpt from someone I found on the AA Active Board:

Alcoholics Are Usually Pathological Liars
Long before they became physically addicted and often when they're very young, most alcoholics adopted lying as a "preferred defense strategy."  In other words, they usually found it easier to lie their way out of situations than to tell the truth and face the consequences.  And once fully addicted, they now have an endless supply of reasons for lying because they are always making excuses for their behavior and shortcomings.
So eventually, lying becomes a way of life and the first lie is that they don't have a problem and they don't need help.  And because everything else is built on top of the denial that they don't have a problem and they don't need help, everything else about their life tends to become a mixture of lying and denial as well.  That's how an alcoholic can rationalize sitting in a bar bragging about their children while in reality, they've abandoned their kids and stopped making child support payments.  In essence, the alcoholic is such a convincing and constant liar and denier, while they're in a good "buzz zone," they can even convince themselves of the lies. -- Larry H.

Quotes on lying and addiction from recovered alcoholics:

The deceit & dishonesty that addiction brings to love is certainly not what love is about. It's contrary to its very nature, to its essence ... Addiction replaces family & friends with those that don't love, those that really don't care, & those that will never have your back ... Addiction is a bully, a liar, a cheat. It taunts. It stifles. It disrespects & disrupts. It removes the life & the heart out of the spirit ... Addiction puts extraordinary pressure on ordinary people. It puts strain on all they hold dearly. It takes honor from everyone it touches. -- Jim Wallor,

Grandiosity and self-centeredness are issues with all recovering addicts ... why we need sponsors to help us stay on track. -- Michael Liimatta, Chief Academic Officer at City Vision College, Kansas City, Missouri

Alcohol destroyed my ability to stand up for something more important than my own narcissistic addictions. -- Bill Wilson

Saturday, May 31, 2014

my questions for Riley (from the Immortal Alcoholic's blog)

Over on another blog, called The Immortal Alcoholic, I asked Riley, a now-sober alcoholic who has been in and out of rehab and close to death many, many times, some questions. To read the interview in its entirety (and see the video) GO HERE.

Here is a little excerpt of my particular questions:

Angry Alcoholics –
What kind of person do you think you would have been if you had never tasted alcohol?
Very dull.

What would you have done with your life?
Something dull, probably not spend 25 years on submarines. I would be very much like my father.

What would you be doing now?
I have no idea, but I would probably be dead now.

What were your dreams?
Mine? I think there is no burden greater than a great expectation. I didn't have any dreams for myself as I was expected to.

What advice would you give to a man who feels he is not an alcoholic, but who is drinking three quarters of a bottle of gen a day, starting every morning and sipping throughout the day?
Try to quit.

How would you wake up his family that he’s in trouble?
It is very difficult to wake up the family as quoted by you. I'm not sure that I could. The family and associates have a tendency to tip toe around the elephant in the room. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are abusers hypocrites?

name of cartoon/illustration: King of Hypocrisy
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att)

Those who spend their time looking for the faults in others usually make no time to correct their own. -- Art Jonak

I have found in my own life that people who are hyper critical and judgmental of others, are hyper sensitive to any criticism of themselves, even if that other person unwittingly and unconsciously does so. 

This is an excellent article on how hypocrites operate.

I have found in my own life that people who chastise others for being selfish will show that they are more selfish than you could ever think to be.

I have found in my own life that people who cry foul for hurting their feelings, will hurt your feelings with impunity, disregard, abandon and then further chastise you (or try to convince you that you are crazy) for feeling hurt.

I haven't met an abuser yet who isn't a hypocrite. 

People who look in the mirror before they treat others with disdain or a verbal lashing or an emotionally abusive tactic can very rarely get to the point where they can go through with it. Funny about that!

Why? Many abusers have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What are the signs? Here is a good explanation (and the overall blog to that link is a good resource too).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

what is the personality makeup of an abuser?

name of cartoon/illustration: The Narcissist
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att)

(note: for further reading about what constitutes abuse, including more on the personality of abusers, and whether they can be rehabilitated, go to this post). 

(note: some active addicts display traits of abusive narcissism too)
1. Retaliates and punishes you for confronting them (or even for hinting at criticism)
2. Can never be wrong or they will be enraged
2. Diminishes and downgrades your feelings while being hyper sensitive if their feelings are hurt
3. When you beg a normal person to stop hurting you, they do, while narcissists love to take the opportunity to hurt you more
4. Pries into your feelings, thoughts and what you do to save it up to use it against you later while keeping their own motives, thoughts and feelings close to the chest
5. Plays favoritism games: is overly sweet and kind to one person while scapegoating and vilifying another
6. Will do anything to keep up an image even if they have to lie and reject you to do it
7. Believes they are more special than others and entitled to special treatment
8. Often sweet to strangers, but abusive to family members
9. Arrogant

I liked these power point presentations by Jeni Mawter on the subject:
According to this article abusers come with several personality disorders: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.  

Abusive mothers: This article (from my favorite source of identifying emotional abuse) and this article from Parrish Miller underlines some of the characteristics of abusive mothers. These include the following: secretive, keeps motives and plans close to the chest, violates boundaries and tries to keep you from having autonomy, plays favorites with one child and scapegoats another child, encourages the favored child to abuse the scapegoat, is never wrong about anything, minimizes or invalidates feelings and experiences, you are responsible for her feelings but she is never responsible for your feelings, hypocritical, whistle blowing by any of her children unleashes severe punishment and threats to remain silent, undermines, criticizes, demeans, denigrates, she makes you look crazy or insane as a tactic to gain control, smears you, lies and aggrandizes herself in stories about herself, overly sensitive to any criticism however small, extremely defensive, teaches her children to be wary of her wrath, will get even unless she is placated by getting what she wants, petty and punitive, exploitative, shaming and blaming, attention-seeking, and if she loses everyone and everything in the process of becoming so ruthless and abusive can become pathetic (and weepy  -- "Why does everyone hate me?"). From my reading, mothers seem to fall into the Narcissistic form of personality disorder than the other disorders mentioned.

Abusive fathers: Abusive fathers have some of the same traits as abusive mothers, but there are also traits that are exceptional to fathers. This article explains what they are. Some differences include perceiving wife and children as his personal property, children being disowned for disappointing him, putting career and interests above family, blaming his failures on others, rage that is often more violent and physical than abusive mothers display, makes promises only to consistently disappoint, has to be right and in control at all times, shames his children in front of others. Sexual abuse, slandering and stalking is much more prevalent among abusive fathers than abusive mothers.    

Abusive siblings: This article explains that sibling abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional or verbal. Abuse thrives in environments where there is parental favoritism, or when parents are emotionally withdrawn and unavailable, neglectful, absentee, are not positive role models of conflict resolution or are abusive towards children themselves. This article explains the difference between sibling rivalry and sibling abuse. Sibling abuse can lead to the abuser lacking empathy and having narcissistic qualities while the victim often has low self esteem and depression. I discuss sibling abuse in depth in this post.

Abusive male partners: This article cites some of the warning signs of male abusers with female abusers: jealousy, controlling behavior (which includes having to know every detail of your movements and life, trying to control your decisions), quick romantic sweep-you-off-your-feet obsession and involvement, blame-shifting for problems, blame-shifting for feelings, hypersensitivity, cruelty to animals or children (or anyone in a weakened position), playful use of force in sex, use of isolation as a control tactic, the word "consequence" is used during an argument, downgrading of others so that victim has doubts about others and will look to abuser for validation, verbal abuse, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde personality, alcoholism or substance abuse, history of battering or sexual violence, negative attitude toward women, threatening violence, breaking or striking objects, use of force and intimidation during an argument. 

Abusive female partners: This article makes it clear that forty percent of all domestic violence disputes in Britain come from cases where the male is the victim. This article from Wikipedia says that it is probably under-reported because of stigma. This article and this article cite the same kinds of issues and patterns of abusive behavior that males exhibit. As with the men, it is also about power and control. However these characteristics are more prevalent in abusive female partners than male partners: for physical violence it manifests in terms of slapping and shoving, unreasonable jealousy, possessiveness, blames the victim for acts of aggression when she is the one who is perpetrating the abuse, blames the victim for having affairs when she is the one who is having affairs, paints her partner out to be a sex offender or domestic violence offender or gay or a philanderer, spreads rumors and lies, when she is criticized or feels hurt retaliates by having affairs or breaking things, uses the word "consequence" during arguments with the victim, fakes or inflicts injuries upon herself to get attention, over-spends or steals money from the victim, can never resolve disputes without having the upper hand. Tends to be more narcissistic than male abusers. Women are also much more likely to admit to abusing their men as evidenced by this British article.    

Abusive co-workers: Work place bullying has been linked to a rash of suicides as this article claims. This article claims that co-worker abuse and bullying can take many forms including taking credit for things you did, standing too close for comfort, gossiping behind your back, ostracism from lunches and parties and other worker hangouts, criticism for your performance, damaging or smearing your reputation, taking your ideas and presenting them to the boss, constantly bringing up your mistakes. Bullying at work is hard to combat. This article states that in 81 percent of cases, nothing appears to be done about the bullying (data compiled from workers who fill out surveys about their work place environment). This article states that many workers who complain about being bullied are let go whereas the bully is allowed to remain and often gets promoted. 

Abusive bosses: Huffington Post has a number of posts on how to deal with an abusive boss. However in the long run it can effect your overall physical and emotional health. This article gives you ways to think about whether you should remain in a job with a difficult boss. This Forbes article tells how to deal with an abrasive boss. I find it interesting that there are hundreds of internet articles on how to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, but not a lot of articles that say it is plainly wrong to be abused by superiors in the workplace. Even psychology articles are written in such a way as to help workers find a way to put up with abuse through meditation, yoga, mental practices while you are being berated and screamed at and how to calm the situation with compassionate responses. Bull! Why the double standard? Why are bosses given free rein to bully, abuse and intimidate, but parents, siblings, partners and co-workers are looked at as aberrant and unnatural if they abuse? Interesting!! And not right... 

Friday, April 18, 2014

hitting rock bottom in Alanon

name of cartoon/illustration: Hitting Rock Bottom in Alanon
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att)

Note: I am writing this post on 3/25/14, though I probably won't publish it until I have finished with some other posts waiting in the wings, so the date published by Blogger for the post will be different from the date I actually wrote it.

When a person starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous, it is said that they have hit rock bottom. 

It is said that when a person finally goes to Alanon, they have hit rock bottom as well. But from what I have noticed personally, it seems to come after a year in the program as the "spinning out of control" keeps gaining momentum, especially as the person in the program learns that he/she cannot control the drinking of the alcoholic -- ever -- and that they need to figure out what kind of life they are going to have (after having gained that knowledge) and how to set boundaries (as alcoholics generally have rage issues, disabilities, work-related issues). The Alanon member has to decide whether they are going to stay or leave the family member with the alcohol problem. Hitting bottom starts when the person realizes he cannot change other people and can no longer take the weight of the dysfunctional communications and relationships and takes the focus off of the alcoholic and the circle of excusers and enablers around the alcoholic. For every alcoholic, their disease directly impacts, on average, 16 other people. It is like a domino effect: the alcoholic's reactions keep radiating out and out and out...  

This is just one instance of how bad things can get by living with an alcoholic (and they can even get worse than that example). Imagine if there are children involved. Now it effects them as well. If they are married with children of their own: more people. It can radiate to children and parents of the alcoholic, siblings of the alcoholic, spouses of the children, spouses of the siblings, the grandchildren, step families, etc).

For instance, an elderly father, Mr. Bean, enables a beloved favorite son, Vincent. To the father, Vincent's drinking isn't as bad as other family members see it. Drink is part of the culture, right? Vincent has a lot of good qualities: honesty, integrity, a good work ethic (or at least he used to -- but to the father those qualities still exist in his son even if it is only in the father's mind). His son never caused any problems while growing up. In fact, he was a helper around the house and seemed to appreciate the father the most, so he also became the favored child. As with a lot of favored children, Vincent had feelings of entitlement, of playing by different rules.

Vincent has a wife, Carly, who he is divorcing because she began to be a constant nag (or at least that is what Vincent believes). Carly insists that Vincent's drinking and violent rages are the cause of the divorce as well as Mr. Bean enabling Vincent.

Carly's bitter complaints about the drinking seem like total nonsense to Mr. Bean, so he sides with his beloved son, Vincent, in this battle (of course).

Vincent also has four sons of his own. He is on speaking terms with two of them; the other two have ceased speaking to him and complain that he is a bully. Of the two that have ceased speaking to him, one believes that the cause is alcoholism, the other believes that the cause rests in the fact that their grandfather, Mr. Bean, is condoning Vincent's behavior. The two that don't speak to their father, also don't speak to each other (one of them is an alcoholic and the other one abstains and goes to Alanon). They had a falling out when their mother, Carly, became the victim of a domestic violence incidence with Vincent, their father, where she ended up in the hospital.

The two other siblings that still speak to their father are not on speaking terms with the ones who don't speak to their father. They reason that perhaps their father wouldn't have taken to the bottle so much if his sons hadn't pulled away from him.

The sibling that is in Alanon has a daughter that he doesn't want exposed to alcoholics, particularly Vincent. Vincent is drunk all of the time over the holidays and constantly groping the little girl.

Vincent's siblings, who have been verbally abused by Vincent, start blaming each other for "not acting right" ("the not acting right", they reason, is "making" Vincent drink: bunk, of course, because no one can make another person drink). On top of it all, the other siblings start resenting the fact that their alcoholic sibling, Vincent, is wrapping Mr. Bean, the patriarch, around his little finger, robbing him blind, getting bailed out by him and excusing everything including believing all of Vincent's lies.  

There are generations and siblings and cousins all being effected by one man's drinking. And all of it continues on and on (getting more and more toxic) while the one family member is in Alanon trying to find a way out of the pain at knowing his family is in shambles.

More about this dynamic from the Dysfunctional Alcoholic Family Wheel of Abuse.

As the family members argue with each other (common), the Alanon member is more and more ostracized. Hitting rock bottom is when the alcoholic and enablers are so toxic that the Alanon member has nowhere else to turn (usually). Healing starts when he stops worrying about what his family members are trying to do to him and each other (or threatening him with), and he starts working on himself, his own life and in building healthier relationships, even if those relationships have to be outside his own family. He can't change his family, he didn't cause the alcoholic to drink and be abusive, and he can't cure his family from engaging in hurtful behaviors like blaming each other.

Beginning the steps and focusing on oneself instead of the alcoholic is when the Alanon member decides to get well and whole again -- and I haven't seen that from most Alanon newbies until they have been in the program for awhile. It takes time to realize that other people (the alcoholic and his circle of enablers) do not want to change and most likely will refuse to change how they are relating and behaving. It takes awhile to deal with the fallout from that realization too: the obvious one is the grieving process of losing ones family (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and ones place in the family: a group of people who seem to not want to get well or give voice and compassion to those who are suffering the most from the alcoholic's drinking, rage and abuse.  


Friday, March 28, 2014

stuff feelings, don't talk or trust, be invisible: the message of dysfunctional alcoholic families

name of artwork: Keep Feelings to Yourself, Keep the Dirty Family Secret
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att) 

This article by Pamela Weintraub in Psychology Today describes what living with alcoholic parents are like and why trauma is acute and common. Excerpts from the article:

The alcoholic family is one of chaos, inconsistency, unclear roles, and illogical thinking. Arguments are pervasive, and violence or even incest may play a role. Children in alcoholic families suffer trauma as acute as soldiers in combat; they also carry the trauma like an albatross throughout their lives.
Not only is the experience devastating, it's common, says Stephanie Brown, founder of the Alcohol Clinic at Stanford Medical Center, where she formulated the developmental model of alcohol recovery. Seventy-six million Americans (about 45 percent of the U.S. population) have been exposed to alcoholism in the family in one way or another, and an estimated 26.8 million of them are children... 

... Claudia Black, a leading expert on adult children of alcoholics and author of It Will Never Happen to Me, says these children grow up with three dangerous rules: don't trust, don't feel, and don't talk ... Since the parents inflict so much pain on their families, they teach their children to suppress their emotions just to survive. Indeed, alcoholic parents are prone to angry or violent outbursts that (along with the drinking itself) they end up denying, and children in such a home may buy the delusion, themselves. Since the children are inculcated to deny the reality around them, they develop a resistance to talking about urgent, important, or meaningful aspects of life. -- Pamela Weintraub

I have also personally witnessed and known some adult children of alcoholics who also expect their children not to feel anything in traumatic situations (and the children who do "feel" being labeled as crazy and over-reactive when hurt or abused by others), though I haven't been able to find any literature on the subject (note on 4/12/15: I did find some answers, and I wrote about them here). It is just something I note in my observations in meetings, group therapy situations and in experiences in my own life. As with active angry alcoholics, it is about walking on eggshells, keeping quiet and not having a voice (especially if it is about confronting, i.e. about important and meaningful subjects that may be mutually emotionally laden or controversial, none of which can be expected to be resolved in a healthy open-discussion manner)...

To find out more about the dynamics of how angry outbursts that end in abuse by a member of a dysfunctional alcoholic family get discounted and diminished by other family members, GO HERE TO THIS POST

Friday, March 21, 2014

is an anger management course possible with an alcoholic?

name of artwork: A Legacy of Too Much Anger and Rage
image is ©2014 Lise Winne
(for information regarding licensing any images contact LilacGroveGraphics (att) 

So, is an anger management course possible with an alcoholic? The answer is a resounding no!

A therapist explains why HERE. Or to explain it succinctly:

I want to stress that anger management is usually ineffective for a person who is angry and frequently using alcohol or other drugs. You can do anger management with such a person until you are blue in the face—and it will not work! ... Now that I know drugs are often the cause for anger, I refer this type of client to a substance abuse program. Once he/she has completed such a program, the anger is often gone. -- Buck Black, LCSW